Woman with hearing loss concerned about Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

In seniors with loss of memory or impaired mental function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research indicates at least some of that worry might be baseless and that these issues may be the result of a much more treatable condition.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms some believe to be a product of Alzheimer’s may actually be a consequence of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully assessed participant’s functional capabilities associated with memory and thought and looked for any links to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of people evaluated for cognitive impairment had minor to extreme loss of hearing. Unexpectedly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when examining patients who are worried that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed memory lapses or shortened attention.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Loss of Hearing is Blurred

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an older adult thinks of when dealing with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to understand how one can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Think of a situation where your best friend asks you for a favor. Case in point, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing issue. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

Given the link between aging and an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age could be experiencing these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number rises significantly for older age brackets, coming in at 8.5 percent for 55- to 64-year-olds; 25 percent for 65- to 74-year-olds; and 50 percent for people 75-years or older.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a common part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss serious enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • How often do I ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?

Science has positively found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental capabilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research found that the worse the hearing loss at the beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired thought and memory.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any possible misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing assessment. This should be a part of your regular annual physical particularly if you are over 65.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you may be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing assessment. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.